Employees disengaged with your ESG commitments? The answer lies in your communications strategy

An unclear stance on ESG and sustainability can contribute to climate anxiety, cultural disagreements on divisive topics, and a lack of engagement in company-level commitments...
HR Grapevine
HR Grapevine | Executive Grapevine International Ltd
Employees disengaged with your ESG commitments? The answer lies in your communications strategy
When employees aren't clear on their involvement in ESG they become disengaged with climate commitments

Opinions are like... well, you know how the adage goes. Everybody’s got one.

This certainly applies to the hot HR topics of today’s workplace. ESG, ED&I, and AI (the list goes on) drum up relentless discourse from employees, HR leaders, and organisation alike.

These issues create passionate debate and trembling uncertainty in equal measure. Any HRD that has attended an AI-related roundtable or panel in the past twelve months will tell you that although people have strong stances on the theory, no one is yet truly sure what it means in practice for their workplace.

When it comes to ESG, organisations are further down the line with their approach to sustainability. Thanks in part to the 155% increase in ESG regulation over the past decade, many workplaces have created a formal set of policies, improved their reporting on ESG issues, and pushed for credibility through B-Corp certification. And yet, the topic is still not without debate. Many companies are not aligned with their employees on ESG. Barely a third (39%) of people think their workplace is having a positive impact on society and the planet.

Whether it’s a lack of communication or co-creation, there’s a major gap. HR teams have to work harder to ensure their workforce knows – and is happy with - where their company stands on ESG.

HR needs to be better at climate communication...

All talk and no action. A tick-box exercise. This is how many UK workers perceive their company’s commitment to ESG initiatives, according to a 2023 study from Team Lewis. It certainly confirms the notion that employers are not doing enough on ESG matters. But before we come on to discuss what more HR can do to improve sustainability efforts, let’s consider the role that poor communication may be playing a large role in employee frustrations.

Plenty of companies are very vocal about their ESG goals. A quick Google of ‘net zero commitment,’ for example, brings hits from PwC, Nestlé, CPP Investments, Hays PLC, Equans UK, HSBC, Rolls Royce, Shell, Vodaphone, and Newcastle City Council – to name a few. With four in five UK businesses acknowledging ESG impacts their brand and reputation, it’s hardly surprising.

Sustainability commitment should touch every part of the organisation, and we all need to collaborate to ensure we’re doing right by the society and the planet

Rebekah Wallis | Director of People & ESG, Ricoh UK

But in focusing heavily on passing muster with customers or compliance officers, companies often neglect to apprise employees of exactly how they plan to meet these commitments and what the company has achieved to date.

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